Restrictions on Telework Increase Congestion, Traffic and Pollution

Restrictions on Telework Increase Congestion, Traffic and Pollution

Forcing people to waste gas and time sitting in traffic to get to a computer in a cubicle in 2022 is becoming as archaic as walking to the corner store to use a pay phone. But that’s exactly what the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) management wants to do by restricting teleworking for park desk workers.

Since the start of the pandemic, park researchers, bookkeepers, and other desk workers, were teleworking most days. Now management is trying to unilaterally restrict teleworking rights, wasting gas, and causing more pollution and road congestion.

One of my co-workers, ecologist Kristen Van Dam, has been pushed out from Oakland to east Contra Costa County by skyrocketing housing costs and inflation. Kristen’s commute is now 76 miles, two and half hours of her day is spent on the roads during rush hour. If the Park District truly is guided by an environmental ethic, why is management making decisions that increase congestion and pollution by putting hundreds more cars on the road?

The COVID pandemic sped up the trend towards remote work, made possible by technology. And while many frontline workers can only do their jobs on site, teleworking is becoming more a norm than an exception.

I’m a crew lead at the East Bay Regional Parks. I run power tools to limit hazardous fuels to make sure our parks are more resilient against wildfires. Until they invent a drone or robot to run chainsaws, I can’t do my job working remotely from our home offices.

But my colleagues who work behind a computer to keep our parks open, maintained, and thriving have proven they can do that from anywhere. In fact, a lot of my coworkers at EBRPD have found telework has not only given them more flexibility and balance in their lives, but they’ve also become far more productive and effective.

Telework is a win-win-win. It saves time cutting commutes, reduces the risk of COVID and other illnesses that spread in office settings, making workplaces safer for those who do need to be on site, and it’s better for the environment.

Park management’s move to restrict teleworking will increase pollution and put more cars on crowded highways. Remote working reduced commuting emissions by 43% in 2019 and 97% in 2020. Protecting our environment is core to our mission at EBRPD. We should be doing everything we can to slow down climate change. Reducing the number of people who need to commute by car to an office is one way to help do just that.

In addition to reaffirming our mission to do everything we can to support a clean, safe environment, the Parks District needs to be a competitive employer. The option to telework instills trust, helps workers spend less time commuting, and gives them flexibility around how and where they work. According to a recent study, one of the top reasons people started job hunting or quit their job was because their employers required them to return to the office.

EBRPD management’s move to restrict remote work is souring morale and discouraging hard working folks from applying for important park jobs. Not only has telework proven to be a good thing for a lot of workers across our communities, but it’s also a no-brainer for our environment.

William Hough is a crew lead on the fuels crew for the East Bay Parks District. EBRPD operates Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach and Crab Cove Visitor Center.



Mr. Hough has brought forth excellent reasons why EBRPD should allow employees who are able to perform their jobs remotely be allowed to do that. Surely you are seeing the results of climate change? Are we to stand by and allow "business as usual" to contribute more CO2 to the atmosphere? Come on EBRPD. Take another look at YOUR reasoning.